Health Care Reform By August? It Ain't Happening.

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 21, 2009

By now, it should be clear that the Obama Administration’s goal of getting a health care reform bill signed before Congress goes on its August recess is not in the cards. One might have hoped that the Administration would realize this, and focus on getting health care reform done right, rather than focusing on getting it done quickly.

The Administration, however, still wants to tilt at windmills. At this rate, Don Quixote himself may spring from the pages of the novel about him, and tell the President “you know, maybe it’s best that you stop.”

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce panel are headed to the White House, not their committee room, on Tuesday.

Instead of continuing their markup, Energy and Commerce Democrats will be lobbied by President Obama at the White House. Tuesday’s continuing markup was canceled, but the panel is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.

The delays and intense effort by the White House cast more doubt on whether the House will meet its deadline of voting on the landmark bill before the August recess.

Conservative Democrats on the panel have criticized the healthcare reform bill’s costs, and complained it does not do enough to reduce long-term healthcare spending. Freshman Democrats have also been worried about growing fiscal deficits and the risk the healthcare bill could add to them, while members from wealthy districts are upset about a surcharge on the wealthy that would be used to pay for some of the bill’s costs.

More and more, the effort to enact health care reform before the August recess appears to be an exercise in desperation. I recognize the political need to get reform passed while the President is still kinda, sorta in his honeymoon phase. I certainly understand the need to get it passed before the public realizes just what kinds of reform are being enacted. But the calendar is an enemy now. How much more needs to happen before the Administration finally concedes that it will not meet its deadline?

There is a great deal that can be accomplished by acknowledging that the August deadline is not going to be met. Obviously, the Administration can focus on getting a good bill, as opposed to its current project of trying to get something–anything–enacted quickly. I suppose that another advantage in waiting is that it would allow the President to become familiar with the provisions in the various health care reform bills floating around. I am led to understand that Presidential familiarity with health care legislation would be a feature, not a bug.

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